In Its Final Lap, the Bush Team Tackles NATO
ALISON STEWART, Host:
POTUS and NATO together again one last time. President Bush is in the Ukraine, capital of Kiev, today for a quick stop on his way to a three-day NATO summit to be held in Romania. That summit will be the last of his presidency. It's also technically the last summit for Vladimir Putin. But it won't be all air kisses, soul looking, and shoulder rubs. President Bush wants troop commitments in Afghanistan. Here's White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on the game plan.
STEPHEN HADLEY: The president's message is going to be one of the importance of success in Afghanistan, the need for all countries to make it as a priority, the need for us to develop a more integrated strategy - it's very clear that we all need to do more.
STEWART: There are some 55,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, almost half of them American. So, this week the American president will try to convince some reluctant NATO allies to send more forces to the front line. With us now to discuss what's at stake for Mr. Bush on his NATO tour is Julianne Smith, Europe program director for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-profit international policy institution. Hi, Julianne.
JULIANNE SMITH: Hi, good morning.
STEWART: Good morning. So of the 26 NATO members who have troops in Afghanistan already, which of these countries is likely to say yes, we will deepen our commitment in a significant way? And who's going to resist?
SMITH: Germany has over 3,000 troops on the ground already, but we've been pushing them pretty hard to either send more troops, or take the troops that they have in the north and send them down to the more volatile south. And we're almost - I think it's 99 percent, possibly 100 percent certain, that Germany will not be making any changes to their troop commitments on the ground.
STEWART: Yeah, some of the reports I read said they're actually losing faith in the ground mission in Afghanistan.
SMITH: That's right. Germany and other NATO member states are kind of starting to question whether or not we can really win on the ground, and whether or not NATO has the capabilities that it needs to see this through, and they question also whether or not we've got kind of the softer tools we need, things that would help with long-term stabilization, development assistance, and other such instruments.
STEWART: Now, your organization has noted that there's going to be an unveiling this week of a NATO sort of vision statement on Afghanistan. What is the purpose of this vision statement?
SMITH: And I don't know if we're going to see leaders have those difficult kind of national debates with their publics on the other side of the Atlantic. At least, if we issue this vision statement, we won't hear any complaints, or any - I hope no more complaints that NATO lacks a roadmap on the ground.
STEWART: Let's talk a little bit about business within NATO itself. The Ukraine and other former Soviet states - you know, that wants U.S. support for their NATO membership, and President Bush, he supports Ukraine's bid - Vladimir Putin, not so much. What is his objection, and what is he threatening?
SMITH: We would find Ukraine and Georgia a bridge too far. And so what's going to happen is I think the summit is going to get kind of - folks at the summit are going to get cold feet, and I don't think we're going to extend what they call this Membership Action Plan to countries like Ukraine and Georgia. I just think Germany and France and a couple of other countries are very hesitant to do that right now.
STEWART: Will any of them gain traction in the next three days, or with Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush at the end of the line, does it not make any sense for NATO to give their word much weight?
SMITH: But by and large, on missile defense and these other issues, I don't expect a lot of breaking news. I think this is kind of a farewell tour, a pat on the back by these two guys, and I don't sense that either one of them are interested in really putting a big marker down and saying oh, we've broken the impasse on missile defense. I just find that unlikely.
STEWART: Julianne Smith, Europe program director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thanks for being with us here on the Bryant Park Project.
SMITH: Thank you.
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